Jack Graham - Psalm 23 - Part 3
This is a very special edition of PowerPoint in that we're taking some time just in the studio, a kind of you and me conversation and teaching from God's Word. And our subject is Psalm 23. Over the last several weeks we've been walking with the Shepherd and Psalm 23, of course, is just an incredible psalm, memorized by so many. Talked about more than perhaps any passage of scripture. There's just so much here! It's really a lifetime of learning. And speaking of a lifetime of learning, I brought an old Bible today. It is my first Bible. I was looking through some shelves, rearranging some things recently and I came across this Bible.
I had a little New Testament that my grandfather had given me, but this was given to me in 1958. A lifetime ago. I was 8 years of age. No need to take the time to add that all up, but in 1958 I was 8 years of age and I had just become a believer and was baptized as a child. I'm so grateful that I came to Jesus early in my childhood. Wonderful Christian home and heritage, where it is very easy for me to believe and trust in Jesus. I'm grateful for that opportunity that God gave me. So I had just come to Christ and my grandfather who was such a powerful, potent force in my life as a young person.
We actually lived, our family lived with my maternal grandfather. His name was A. J. Simms. Arthur Judson Simms. Judson, named after a great missionary. But he was a great man. A horse and buggy doctor originally and then became a banker. But most of all he was a Christian, a Christ follower who led the way for our family. He was a patriarch, and for me, it was so important. I would sit in his lap most every evening and he would read to me the stories of the Bible, talk to me about Jesus, as did my parents. But my grandfather gave me this Bible, and it's presented to, and I don't know if you can see that or not, but it says to Jackie Graham. I went by Jackie. I had an Uncle by the name of Jack; I was named after him. And also we admired Jackie Robinson back in the fifties, a great baseball player.
So I proudly wore the name Jackie. Dropped it when I became a teenager, but, "To Jackie Graham by Grandpa Simms, August 24, 1958". And here's the inscription, so simple and yet so strong in my life. My grandfather wrote, "May the Lord bless you and keep you". It reminds me, of course, of the Bible which says, the promise of God, "May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make His face to shine upon you; may the Lord be gracious to you; may His countenance be upon you and give you peace". And so throughout the days of my life, I bring up this Bible and I use it today in the message because what I'm about to talk to you about has been true in my life. All the days of my life the Shepherd has led me. He leads His children along. And we, like sheep, have found a Shepherd. His name is Jesus who is the Good Shepherd.
And that's why this Psalm begins in Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want". Everything we need is ours in Him. There is no need that you have in your life but that He, the Good Shepherd cannot supply and supply abundantly. This is life in Christ. It is an abundant life now and forever. That's what we're going to see in the message today. Whatever you need in life, when you find yourself even in the deepest of valleys in your life, when you get to the bottom of your life, you will find that Jesus is all you need. Or if you're on the mountain top. With everything, Jesus is all you need. When you get to the place where you discover that Jesus is all you have, you will discover that Jesus is all you need. It's true.
And so: "He leads us beside still waters. He restores our soul. (In this day of anxiety, He gives us peace.) He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake". So He leads us. I love the old hymn "He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by His own hand He leadeth me". And I can give you a testimony from all these years of following Jesus that He has led me all the way. And He will lead you as well. This Bible is falling apart pretty much. I used it on into my teenage years before I retired this Bible for another one. But it's falling apart, it's coming apart into pieces. I love the old saying which says: A person who has a Bible that is falling apart has a life that isn't! Because Jesus holds us together, and His Word is our guide, our comfort, our strength through the years. And so "He leads us in the paths of righteousness".
And in His righteousness, right living as we follow Jesus, we then find ourselves always, always in the center of the will of God. And sometimes, sometimes, in fact, many times in our lives we will find ourselves moving from mountaintops to valleys. And in Psalm 23 it takes a turn. It says: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;". So right in the heart of this great psalm, the Shepherd Psalm is this truth. It is the key that unlocked the meaning of the entire psalm, and that is, "You are with me". Underscore that in your Bible. "You are with me". Write it on your mind. Believe it in your heart. That there is no situation in our lives as followers of Jesus but that His presence is constant. He is ever the same.
Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever". Just as this Bible is the eternal word of God. This one is falling apart as I noted, but the Word of God isn't! Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers, the flower fades, the word of our God shall stand forever". And God's Word and God's presence in our lives through His Word, through His Spirit enables us to go through anything in our lives that we face, including the dark valleys. One of my favorite places to go in Israel is a little crevice, a deep, deep valley in the Judean desert. I've been there many, many times. It's a treacherous pathway through the desert, and many believe that it is the spot, the very spot where David, the author of this psalm would have led his sheep to higher ground or to lead his sheep to still waters, and this magnificent, it's beautiful in its own way, it's like high desert. And you have these mountains, but this deep valley and it was a murderous valley. Thieves and predators were in this valley.
So the shepherd sometimes leads his sheep in order to get them to high ground through the deep valleys. And that's true in life, of course. You know, I trust, the application of this. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow". It is a fact that life is filled with dark valleys and deep shadows. It comes and goes. We've had mountaintops, but in order to get to the next mountaintop, I don't want to insult your intelligence but you know you have to move from a mountaintop to a valley to get to the next mountain. And so, from mountain to mountain there are valleys in-between, and there are valleys in our life. Depressed places, dark places, filled with shadows and filled with fears. And the valley in particular here is described as "the valley of the shadow of death". But I have a question for you: Would you rather be on a mountaintop without Jesus, or in a valley with Jesus?
Well, you know the answer to that question, don't you? With Jesus everywhere; we want to be with Him. And I certainly have experienced the presence of Jesus and maybe you have, no doubt, you have as well, in the darkest times of your life. As a pastor many years, I've seen this in people's lives; that we draw closer to God in the dark times, the depressed times, the deep valley times of our lives, perhaps more than any other time in our lives, because we need the Lord so desperately. Sometimes when you're riding high, we're on the mountaintop, we tend to go it on our own, until we realize when we get to the depths of something, when we get to some place where our spirits are low and we can't get up, the fog is in and it won't go away, those down times in our lives, that's when we come back to the Lord and cling to the Lord like never before.
There's something very interesting even in the pronouns of Psalm 23. You know, when David opens this passage he's talking about the Lord. It's a tremendous testimony of God. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake". It's all about the Lord. The Lord is doing this for me. And it's a beautiful, powerful testimony. But notice when David, and you and I, go through the deep valley, he stops talking about the Lord, and he starts talking to the Lord. Now it's: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You make me to lie down in the presence of mine enemy; you anoint my head with oil".
You see the difference from talking about the Lord? There are people who know all about the Lord, but they don't really know the Lord. But when you know the Lord in the deepest shadows of life you find Him drawing near as we draw near to Him. The Shepherd is always present. This is the one constant, this is the one continual promise in God's Word. He said so many times, "I will never, no never leave you or forsake you. No never will I do this". And so it's so very important for us to remember when we go through dark valleys, and some of you are in that place right now. You're going through tough times. Jesus said, "In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; for I have overcome the world".
When we know that the Shepherd is with us and that He never leaves us or forsakes us, no matter what valley you're going through, no matter what shadow, even the valley of the shadow of death we will not live in fear; we will live in faith; we will live in expectant hope and confidence in God because we know that our good Shepherd is with us. And when you think about it, shadows can frighten you but they cannot really harm you. The other day I was getting some exercise just in the street, getting a good walk in, and I heard a rumbling behind me. It was a big truck, and I knew it was coming and then I saw the shadow of the truck getting closer and closer and it frightened me because it seemed that that truck was coming right up on my backside. And I turned around quickly and the truck went rumbling by, and the shadow with it.
And I laughed to myself just to be reminded that, yeah, the truck could hurt me but the shadow of that truck could not hurt me at all. It frightened me, but it cannot hurt me. And that's true of the shadows of life, even the shadow of death. Death can hurt you as a believer and follower of Jesus, but it cannot harm you because we have a victory in Jesus that we're going to see in just a moment. And, oh, by the way, there's something about shadows. When we turn our face to the sun, these shadows fall behind us, don't they? And when we turn our faces toward the Lord Jesus Christ and look to Him in the long valleys of life, those shadows fall behind us. You won't be five seconds in heaven through the valley of the shadow of death that when that shadow falls behind you, you will be in the bright light of eternity, in the presence of Jesus.
And in the meantime, we can keep our eyes on Jesus, turn our faces towards the Son, S-O-N, and we will discover that every shadow that we face, every fear that we face will fall behind us. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because you are with me". His presence, the presence of the Shepherd secures us, strengthens us and satisfies us. Jesus is in the valley. And there's something else about this valley that ends up a victory for us and that is "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow". It doesn't say just into the valley, but out on the other side.
I'm telling you whatever you're going through in your life, whatever dark valley you're experiencing right now, you're going to get through this. I prayed after church this past week with a couple and the wife is facing some severe depression and she was just so troubled and broken in the pain. And if you've ever been depressed, really, really depressed, you know that one of the lies that the enemy tells you that the depression itself will tell you is: "You're never going to get out of this; you're never going to get through this. You're stuck in this; you're never going to get better; you're never going to get well".
It may not be depression; it may be something else. The devil lies and says "You're never going to have a great marriage; you're going to be stuck in this terrible relationship". "You're never going to have a purpose in your life. God's finished with you in some way". Never, no never! No, the Bible says He is going to bring you through it. There's never been a sunset but that there has been a sunrise. And don't let the lies of the enemy tell you that you're not going to get through this. I believe God put me here today in your life to say you're going to make it. You're going to get through. The shadows are frightening, the darkness and the depressing places of the deep valley still hurtful, but you're going to get through to the other side!
The rest of your life can be the very best of your life as you follow the Shepherd. How do you know that? Because the scripture says that "Surely goodness and mercy", See that confidence? "Surely", confidently, "surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life", there it is, "all the days of my life". And then: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. My wife Deb and I, we have a couple of dogs. They're brothers, they're beagles, they're the nose brothers. They're great dogs with beagle noses; they'll follow their noses most anywhere, especially to food. But you know what they really do? They follow us around everywhere we go. They're there to meet us when we come in at the end of the day. They're excited. That's a good thing about a dog.
You know, a cat looks up and just goes humph, but a dog is happy and leaping and barking and can't wait to see you. You know, shepherds even to this day will have dogs to help them guide the sheep, guard the sheep, walk with the sheep. And they often trail the shepherd and the sheep and herd the sheep together. And so, someone said that goodness and mercy, and I believe it's true, goodness and mercy, like Deuce and Yogi (our two beagles) will follow us all the days of our lives. Goodness and mercy. On the great days, the days when the sun is shining and we get up and we say, "God is so good"! He is good, isn't He? He's there on the great days, the good days. God is so good. And then we have Him on the down days when it's raining and the sun, you can't see it. You wonder if it's ever coming out again, we have His mercy. Good days we have His goodness; bad days we have His mercy, but all the days of our lives we have the goodness and the mercy of God. God has been so, so good to me. And I know you would say the same thing.
Psalm 136, "His mercy endures forever". His goodness meets us every morning. His faithfulness is so beautiful and wonderful in our lives. It's a great life to live your life with the Shepherd, and as a humble sheep dependent upon Him, to walk with Him, to enjoy His presence. He leads us; He feeds us; He takes care of us. He ministers His help to us. When we fall into a deep crevice and we find ourselves hurt, He picks us up and puts us on His shoulders and carries us. You know, there's no sheep too far away but that Jesus will come and get you. Maybe you've fallen, maybe you're broken. When a shepherd would find a lamb that had fallen. Perhaps he had been wounded in some way, he would leave, Jesus said, the flock, the ninety and nine and go find that one lost sheep, the one little lost last lamb. And what would He do? He would bring that sheep back to the sheep fold.
And that's what Christ does for us. If you find yourself far away or lost, like a little lost lamb right now, the good Shepherd is searching for you, He's coming for you. And just wait. He's going to pick you up and He's going to carry you back into the presence of the Father. It's a great life "all the days of my life". And then, what does He say? Mercy, goodness all the days, and then "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever". It's all these blessings, all this good life that we enjoy every day in Christ, and then, it's heaven. All this I say and heaven, too! Heaven is the Father's house. Jesus told us this in John chapter 14. He said, "Don't let your heart be troubled; you believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions, if it weren't so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there you will be also".
Now Thomas, one of the disciples always willing to raise his hand and ask a question. He wasn't really so much a doubter, seeking to not believe, but he was a doubter seeking always to believe Thomas. Don't call him doubting Thomas. He became one of the greatest believers of all time. But he raised his hand and said, "Lord," I'm so glad he asked this question. "Lord, we don't know where you're going and how can we know the way"? It was dark, it was the upper room, it was hours before the cross. The disciples were disturbed and confused and Jesus had been talking about His death. So he said, "We don't know what's going on. We don't know where you're going and how can we know the way"? And John 14:6, that's when Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. And no one comes to the Father except by Me".
One of the greatest statements in all of the Bible. Jesus is the pathway, not a way but the way to heaven. And if you will trust in Him and believe Him and give your life to follow Him by repenting of your sin, receiving Christ into your life, that is the pathway to heaven. And your future if you are a believe, is forever with Him. In the Father's house. There's a lot of talk about heaven, who's going to go there, the Bible tells us that those who trust in Jesus is going, that we are going to heaven. What's heaven going to be like? That's another day, another message. In fact, I've got an entire message series on heaven. You might want to check that out. But heaven ultimately is the Father's house, it's home. We're going home. The shepherd would take the sheep all the way home, and our heavenly Shepherd, he is guiding us, He is taking us into his presences, and one day we will be with Him forever. It's not going to be boring. Just as life in Jesus is not boring.
People say, "Well, heaven's going to be, is that going to be boring? Are we just gonna, you know, sit on a cloud throughout all eternity and waste our forever"? No, the Bible says we're going to be serving God, we're going to be worshipping God, we're going to be experiencing His presence. We're going to be in heaven with Him forever and ever! You can't imagine how good that's going to be. But I promise you according to God's Word that I have been believing all of my life, according to this Book that heaven is a wonderful place. It is filled with glory and grace. I want to see my Savior's face because heaven is wonderful place. The reason that heaven is so wonderful is because our Father is there, Jesus is there. Our loved ones and friends will gather, fellow believers from every age and throughout the history of mankind will be there in the presence of God because of the cross and the resurrection.
Are you ready? Are you ready to die? Maybe I should ask you first of all are you ready to live, because you're not to live until you're ready to die. When you make peace with God and you know that you know that you know that you're going to heaven when you die or when Christ comes again, then you can live with hope and confidence and peace. You can live with the certainty that life matters now because eternity is before us. And here's one last thing I want to mention before we go and that is our goal as believers is to glorify God, to magnify Jesus in our lives. And one of the best ways we can do that is by introducing Jesus as Savior and Lord to as many people as possible on our way to heaven.
We want to take as many people as possible with us on our way to heaven. We ought to be spending our lives sharing the love of Christ, serving people, loving people, inviting people. Being involved in our churches, praying that lost people will come to faith in Christ, witnessing to our family and friends because there is a heaven and, yes, there is a hell. And you will spend a conscious eternity either in heaven with Him forever in the Father's house, or apart from Him forever and ever in hell. It's a decision that every person must make. Will you believe and trust in Jesus? Will you follow Him? Will you tell as many of your friends as possible who Jesus is and what He's done for you?
You may not know all the answers to the questions that people have about life, about death, about the things of God, but you know Jesus. And if you know Jesus, you can't help but speak as the Apostles did of the things that you've seen and the things that you have heard. Since I was a child, I've been telling people about Jesus. The one that I met in this Book so long ago through the testimony of my grandfather. Now we've got grandparents watching PowerPoint regularly. Do your grandchildren know Jesus? Write them a letter or send them a text. Encourage them to go to church, take them if it's at all possible. Be an influence in your children's and your children's children's life. I'm so glad that I found faith in Christ so soon in my life. And I'm excited about the days ahead. The days following Jesus, knowing that goodness and mercy will be with me all the days of my life and then it's the Father's house forever